Forty years ago today, Ron Franklin, Bud Delp and the Meyerhoffs made their homecoming successful as Spectacular Bid romped to a 5 1/2-length victory in the Preakness Stakes.
The only drama was and escalation in the heated feud between Franklin and fellow jockey Angel Cordero – a feud that would boil over weeks before the Belmont Stakes.
As usual, it didn’t start well. Off to a sluggish start, Bid was bumped by Flying Paster. He then faced an attempt to cut him off as Cordero moved in toward him with Screen King, trying to force him to the rail.
Franklin first accepted the assignment to the rail to get away from Cordero, then looked for his chance to go outside. However, Cordero knew he would do this and moved Screen King in front of Bid, almost inviting him to check his speed and go around him.
General Assembly and Flying Paster were setting a quick pace, running the first quarter mile in :23 2/5, with Screen King comfortably in third and Bid in fourth, 5 lengths behind. Golden Act trailed the pack.
The Paster and General Assembly reached the backstretch neck and neck, with a 3-length lead on the rest of the horses. Cordero swung Screen King to the outside, knowing Franklin’s hesitancy to go to the inside—Cordero had created that fear in the Florida Derby—and was almost daring Bid to go to the inside.
But Franklin was a different rider than he was at the Florida Derby several months ago. He resisted staying on the inside and swung Bid all the way to the middle of the track, a place where few horses travel, moving to the outside of Screen King as the two began to catch General Assembly, who had a small lead. And the crowd of 72,000 roared.
Heading into the far turn, Franklin let Bid go, and Bid responded. He blew past Screen King, moved directly in front of him, and forced him to slow down. Cordero stood up in his stirrups in an act that seemed to plead to the stewards, “Foul!” Cordero cost Screen King valuable seconds; the horse was soon out of contention.
By this time, Flying Paster had passed General Assembly, and fans and the media saw what they were looking for: a duel between East and West, Bid vs. The Paster on a decent track, no excuses. Bid stayed wide.
And if you blinked, you missed the rivalry. Within a few seconds, Bid blew past The Paster, leading by one length, then two. The margin doubled to four as the horses entered the homestretch.
Golden Act made his late move, but Bid was too far ahead. The Paster faded as Bid increased his lead to six lengths. Franklin finally reined him in to save the horse’s stamina, he was five and a half lengths ahead of Golden Act. Screen King somehow managed third place; Flying Paster was fourth, and General Assembly, fading badly, finished last.
The time was 1:54 1/5, the second-fastest Preakness in history and just 1/5 of a second slower than the record set by Cañonero II in 1971 (Secretariat’s record had not been verified yet). It remains the fastest Preakness ever run on a wet track. If Franklin had not pulled Bid up toward the end, or if he had more competition to push him, the record would have been his.
For the win, Bid earned $165,300, which brought his career earnings to over $1.1 million. He had now won 12 races in a row, 14 of 16 for his career. The Meyerhoffs exchanged congratulations and kisses and exploded in screams as they began their frantic rush down to the winner’s circle.
“Fantastic!” Someone yelled to Tom Meyerhoff as he approached the winner’s
circle. “It wasn’t fantastic,” he replied, throwing the fan a Spectacular Bid
T-shirt. “It was spectacular.”